Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Gardening and composting

My fall/winter garden is doing splendidly. We live in Zone 9, so we can expect our little crops to do well up 'til Christmas or later. The things growing best are cucumbers, green beans, peas, several different kinds of lettuce, sage, bell peppers, japaleno peppers, banana peppers, and onions. The asparagas is growing but is still too young (2 jahre alt) to produce edible stalks.

Grapes, strawberries, lemons, and blackberries are finished producing fruit for the year. We have all the grapes and strawberries in and we'll be harvesting the rest of the lemons and oranges over the next few weeks. I found that my spinach and dill did not sprout because they need more warmth. I planted corn in amongst the beans to see if it would sprout. It did and is about three feet high. It'll be interesting to see if the ears will set and if they do set, will they beat the frost. I planted a couple dozen young blueberry plants in a well-drained bit of peat and compost and most are putting on new leaves.

We are using non-hybrid seeds so we can collect the seeds from those plants which do best in our soil.

For new gardeners: If you want to make compost, here's how. You need equal weight grass and leaves. Collect lots of leaves in the fall and mix in fresh cut grass during the summer. Mix into piles on the ground, inside garbage cans, or inside bins -- it doesn't matter. Keep the compost moist and turn it every couple of weeks or months. The little bugs need volume to hold in the heat they generate, so one big pile is better than several litle piles. It's ready to use after it turns black, which can take from 6 weeks for a thick, well-tended pile, to several months for a thin or neglected one. That's all there is to it, very simple and easy.

You may bury table scraps in your compost, excepting meat or bones, in order to add more nutrients. Wood chips are good material to add but take a little longer than leaves to decompose. If you add sawdust or ashes, do so only sparingly and be sure to mix well. You need no fertilizer or "compost starter."

For sticks and giant leaves, cut them up and stack them into a separate, tightly-packed pile which will decompose on its own over the years. The soil in that spot of the yard will eventually become quite fertile.

A garden is supposed to help you stay healthy. To protect your back, don't work your pile for more than 1/2 to 1 hour per day, use good posture, keep your stomach and butt muscles tight, and wear a back support if you think you might need it. You don't have to mix or turn with a pitchfork or shovel, you can gently rake it around with a leaf rake.

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